“On Behalf of Those Who Will Believe”

John 17:20-26

May 29, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 17:20-26

”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

| Centering Prayer |

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over.

Forty-two years ago

During the first week of June

I attended the Central New York Conference

Local Pastor Licensure School at

Casowasco Camp and Conference Center,

On Owasco Lake, south of Auburn, New York.

Think of this as boot camp for pastors.

At age 19,

I was, by a country mile,

The youngest and least experienced member of the class.

Nearly everyone else were middle-aged, second-career, budding candidates for a Local Pastor’s License.

By the end of the week

Each of us had been chosen

To be prayed upon.

When my turn came

I was centered in a living room on my knees,

Surrounded by about 25 pastor-teachers of the school and fellow students.

Everyone reached out and place their hands on me.

People took turns praying out loud for me;

To strengthen and support my ministry,

For the Spirit to guide me,

For my future parishes to be cooperative and vital,

For my family, and

For my protection from temptation and evil.

You name it, it was prayed for!

This went on for a very long time until my knees hurt and everyone was all prayed out.

It was an extraordinarily powerful event.

It brought me to tears.

This event became one of many milestones in my call to ordained ministry

And has been branded forever into my memory.

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over.

Fight the temptation to allow prayer to become superficial, shallow, or rote.

The closing passage from the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John

Is the conclusion of a five chapter section

Scholars have titled “The Farewell Discourse.”

Jesus is preparing his followers,

His disciples,

His soon-to-be apostles,

For his ascension into heaven

And his physical absence.

As we heard last Sunday,

Jesus tells us that he is ascending to the Father,

To prepare a place for us

Where we will dwell forever,

One with Jesus and the Father.

The Farewell Discourse concludes with Jesus praying.

His prayer, in its entirety, is encompassed in John, chapter 17.

Jesus prays, not in the Garden of Gethsemane,

As is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke,

But in the same location

Where he washed the filthy feet of his disciples;

In the Upper Room.

It is important to note

That Jesus prayed aloud,

With intention that all his disciples should hear him.

It is important to note

That Jesus first prays

To the Father

For himself;

That his forthcoming Passion, suffering, and death

Would give glory to the Father. (17:1-9)

It is important to note

That Jesus prays secondly

For his disciples;

That they be protected from the evil one,

That they may have the joy of Jesus completed in themselves,

That they may be sent into the world sanctified in truth. (17:10-19)

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over,

Especially when the one doing the praying is Jesus.

Imagine how the disciples felt

When Jesus prayed aloud

Just for them.

It is important to note

That Jesus concludes his prayer,

Immediately before the beginning of his Passion

With his betrayal and arrest,

By praying for those

Who will come to believe in Jesus

At some point in the future

Based on the testimony of the disciple’s word. (17:20-26)

In other words,

Jesus is praying for you and me.

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over,

Especially when the one doing the praying is Jesus.

Instead of being swept away with anxiety, humiliation, or impending betrayal

Jesus turns his prayerful mind and heart towards future disciples,

In his generation, and in generations to come.

He prays aloud

So that his prayer

Might be recorded for the benefit of his eternal, universal Church.

Jesus petitions his heavenly Father,

Calling him “Righteous.” (17:25)

He asks him for two things:

One, unity, and

Two, intimacy.

Unity and intimacy.

….

Let’s talk about unity.

Jesus desires us to be united,

That all may be one,

For the purpose of …

For the purpose that …

All the world may believe.

Our unity is to become

The perfect means

By which the Holy Spirit can empower

The Church to make disciples of all the world.

Unity is not conformity.

Christian unity expects that we will not all agree

On issues of dogma, theology, or social principles.

Denominational plurality is good, so long as we are united by Christ.

Christian unity does expect us to be united

Just as Jesus and our Righteous Father are united.

The substance of Christian unity is God’s love.

The purpose of unity is belief in Jesus Christ.

Love brings about the transformation of the world

From our temporary and transitory kingdoms

Into the eternal kingdom of God.

….

Let’s talk about intimacy.

Jesus prays that his current and future disciples

Might share in the same intimate love that he and the Father have shared

Since before the foundation of the world.

The love that was the sole agency of God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Is extended to all disciples of Jesus.

God’s love is given as a gift of grace

To you and me.

“God loves you, and so do I,” I am often known to say.

When speaking about members and friends of the parish

I often use the word “beloved.”

This is entirely intentional!

And I’d encourage you to do the same.

Sharing in the intimate love of our Heavenly Father

Unifies us with God and

With one another.

This gift of sharing in the intimate love of God

Is truly, amazing grace.

….

Dearly beloved,

Know that Jesus had you in mind.

Know that Jesus keeps you in mind.

Jesus prayed for you aloud

Right before his betrayal, arrest, Passion, and death.

Jesus looked upon your face.

Jesus traced your fingerprints and

Counted the hairs on your head.

If Jesus prayed so personally,

So intimately for you,

Shouldn’t we also pray for one another?

Know this to be true:

Jesus prayed that you and I might be unified

That all the world might believe.

Pray with Jesus,

That it might be so.

Let’s you and I become the answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity.

Jesus prayed that you and I,

And all the world who comes to believe,

Now and hereafter.

He prayed that we

May enjoy the same loving intimacy that

Our Heavenly, Righteous Father shares with His only Begotten Son.

Pray with Jesus,

That it might be so.

Glorify God!

The source of our unity.

The source of all love.

Amen.

“Unwilling and Ungrateful”

John 5:1-9

May 22, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 5:1-9

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 

Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.

| Centering Prayer |

Is healing a matter of having enough faith?

That is, if I don’t have enough faith, I won’t be healed.

But, if I have enough faith;

If I develop such deep conviction and belief,

If I surpass some divinely created threshold of faith,

Will I be healed and made well?

Jesus had just traveled from Cana, of Galilee in the north

To Jerusalem,

90 miles south,

To attend an unidentified festival of the Jews.

The Gospel of John reports to us

Jesus enters the city by means of the Sheep Gate,

The location where Stephen would soon be stoned.

Today, it is called the “Lion’s Gate”

Due to the 13th century animal carvings in the walls that flank it.

Because of his entry through the Sheep Gate

Jesus probably had traveled the valley route;

That is, south, down the Jordan River valley,

Then up the mountain from Jericho to Jerusalem.

In the time of Jesus

It was called the Sheep Gate

Because the Temple

bread and raised

In the southern, Judean hills

unblemished sheep

Worthy of sacrifice.

The sheep

Would be herded through the gate,

Past the pools of Bethesda,

To the shops near the Temple entrance.

Unblemished sheep were made available

For purchase by visiting pilgrims.

It was only a short walk from the Sheep Gate to the Temple.

The pools of Bethesda are quite interesting.

Think of a spring fed creek running down a mountain side gully.

Build a dam, such that the reservoir was 40 feet deep.

Give the dam a spillway to maintain a steady water level.

Square off the reservoir and call it an “upper pool.”

Build a second dam downstream,

Such that the second reservoir backs up to the first dam.

Square off the reservoir and call it the “lower pool.”

Lay pavers around the two pools and across the upper dam.

Erect a roof overhead the deck for shade and call each a portico.

Walla, you have the pools of Bethesda.

The name Bethesda comes from the Hebrew beth hesda,

Meaning “house of mercy,” or “house of grace.”

The same word could be flipped and used to mean

“house of shame,” or “house of disgrace.”

This dual meaning may have sounded appropriate

Since this location was both

A place of disgrace due to the presence of invalids

And a place of grace, due to the granting of healing.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pool_of_Bethesda)

Remember, in the ancient world,

Being blind, lame, paralyzed, or disabled in any way

Relegated an individual as unclean

And permanently segregated them away from family, friends, and loved one.

The pools of Bethesda

Were given their healing attributes

From legend, and the Greek god Asclepius,

The god of medicine.

A pulse of flowing water through the pools

Were earlier attributed to the Asclepius and were thought to bring healing.

By the time of Jesus,

It was believed that an angel stirred the water,

Bringing God’s favor to the one who first entered the pool.

Is healing a matter of having a sufficient quantity of faith?

In the time of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda,

Healing came to the one who was attentive and quick!

Of all the people in John’s Gospel,

The man in today’s lesson is the least willing and the least grateful.

Allow me to explain.

Jesus enters, conducts a quick assessment of the blind, lame, and paralyzed.

For some unknowable reason,

He picks out this one man.

I don’t know why he chose this man.

Let’s call it “the luck of the draw.”

Jesus knew he’d been there a long time,

(thirty-eight years, John reports),

And he must have looked like a wreck.

See his bed sores.

Smell his body stench.

See the resignation in his eyes.

Jesus asks the most obvious question,

“Do you want to be made well?”

You and I would jump and flail!

“Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!”

Some might respond with jubilee or with sarcasm:

“Look at me. What do you think?”

The obvious answer was, “Yes, sir. I want to be made well.”

But this was not the unnamed man’s response.

He responds with a complaint!

“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up;

and while I am making my way,

someone else steps down ahead of me.”

– John 5:7

In other words,

He didn’t have faith in the help of a stranger.

He didn’t have faith in the kindness of others.

He only had faith in the stirring of water.

It is obvious,

The man didn’t know Jesus

And had not heard of his reputation.

They were strangers to one another.

Jesus told him to stand and to take his mat with him;

A blatant violation of the Sabbath.

The man stands and is healed.

On the spot.

Right there.

He’s healed.

Is healing a matter of having enough faith?

It certainly doesn’t appear to be in this case.

This man’s faith was in the stirring water,

Not in an unknown stranger who tells him to stand and to take his mat with him.

Jesus is silent.

There is no response from Jesus,

Unlike in other healing narratives:

“Go. Your faith has made you well.”

Today, Jesus remains silent.

Our Gospel reading is about the least willing part of this healed man.

Yet, if we continue to read on,

We learn the healed man was also the least grateful.

He was challenged by Jews

Who called him out for carrying a mat on the Sabbath.

He tells them

‘The stranger who made me well,

Told me to go and take my mat with me.’

You heard it.

The healed man throws Jesus under the bus.

Later in the day,

The man runs into Jesus in the Temple plaza.

He learns his name,

And promptly runs to the Jews and tattles on him.

Talk about ungrateful!

“Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus,

Because he was doing such things on the Sabbath.”

– John 5:16

And thus began the slow burn

Of our Lord’s Passion.

Unwilling and ungrateful.

There you have it.

Is healing a matter of having enough faith?

Our Gospel from John makes it abundantly clear that

Healing is not a matter of having enough faith

(as if faith could be measured).

That isn’t how Jesus operates in this circumstance.

Jesus doesn’t heal for the benefit of himself,

In gratitude,

Or praise,

Or devotion.

Jesus heals people simply because this is the work of his Father.

– John 5:17

“Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,

So also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.”

– John 5:21

(Thanks to Elisabeth Johnson, Professor, Lutheran Institute of Theology, Meiganga, Cameroon. As found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2839)

We don’t know why certain people are healed and others are not.

Recently I heard the testimony from a father

Of his child who could not hear in one ear.

She returned for her annual checkup

And the doctor proclaimed her hearing was equal and perfect in both ears.

Just like that.

Boom!

God acted.

At the same time,

In the same room,

Listening to the same witness,

Was a young woman with two cochlear implants.

She was probably wondering to herself

When it was her turn for a miracle.

With one voice I said, “Praise God!”

Yet, with another voice I asked, “God, when is it her turn?”

There is an unsettling sense of arbitrariness to this world.

Some suffer and die.

Others suffer and live to suffer another day.

Still others are healed and miraculously recover.

Just as it mystifies you, so it remains a mystery to me, too.

Two thoughts.

First, we are reminded by Jesus

In his dialogue with Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, that

“The wind blows where it chooses,

and you hear the sound of it,

but you do not know where it comes from

or where it goes.

So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

– John 3:8

In other words

This is God’s kingdom, not ours.

God is in control.

God has a greater plan.

We can only see or know a fraction of what God is doing.

But know this,

God always loves us.

And God always works for our best interest.

If we knew all there was to know about God,

We’d become god-like ourselves.

That wouldn’t be a good thing

On so many different levels.

Therefore, one could say,

It is a part of our necessary human nature

To always know and respect the mysterious nature of God.

Secondly, we are reminded in our own United Methodist Book of Worship that

“The root of the word healing in New Testament Greek, sozo,

is the same as that of salvation and wholeness.

Spiritual healing is God’s work

of offering people balance,

harmony,

and wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships

through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.”

All healing is of God.

Healing does not spare one from suffering.

Healing does not promise cure.

“The greatest healing of all

Is the reunion or reconciliation of a human being with God.”

– The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 613

From the point of view of this man

Who languished for thirty-eight years besides the pools of Bethesda,

He was healed

And Jesus was responsible.

He was reunited with his family, friends, and the crowds in the Temple.

He was reconciled with God.

He was healed in spite of himself.

Do you want to be healed? Jesus asks.

I see three different specialists.

My arthritis is bad

And shots of steroids in my knees are becoming less effective.

My aches, pains, and complaints are getting worse the older I get.

Yes, I want to be healed.

What I want, however, more than a cure,

(For I know I will live to only die another day)

I want to be reconciled with my neighbor and with my God.

This is my desire.

This is how I answer our Lord’s question.

What do you want?

Jesus is asking you,

“Do you want to be healed?”

What is your answer?

What is your prayer?

Amen.

“Loving the Bookends”

John 13: 31-35

May 15, 2022 – Fifth Sunday of Easter

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 13: 31-35

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

| Centering Prayer |

Jesus just washed the feet of his disciples;

An act of humble service.

I wonder how the world would be different

Had Christianity adapted the

Pitcher and Bowl as our symbol

Instead of the Cross?

The tool of the state

(Rome, that is)

To impose its ways

was the cross.

The means of the state was death by public crucifixion.

Take one, make an example of him.

Then take another.

And another.

Splay ‘em.

Nail ‘em.

Hang ‘em high for all to see.

Crucify and leave them to die outside of city gates,

where everyone passes.

The longer and more drawn out the affair,

the better.

Wails, screams, cries, and word of mouth is better than social media.

No pay per view: it’s free, sponsored by Rome.

Bring lots of towels and hand sanitizer because it’s

Bloodier than a butcher shop.

Crucifixion projected

Domination. Cruelty. Oppression. Death.

Crucifixion reminds me of Bucha;

Prisoners restrained, tortured, slaughtered,

Leaving streets littered with corpses for all to see.

Crucifix or bowl and pitcher?

My inherent pessimism and privileged bias

Leads me to counter my internal conflict;

“No, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Our sinful nature and love of evil probability

Would have led to the same outcome;

Regardless if we wore a shiny cross with a crucified Jesus on a necklace around our neck

Or a sterling charm molded in the shape of a bowl and pitcher.”

Maybe I’m wrong.

Had the Church adapted a bowl and pitcher instead of the cross,

We might be living in an age of peace and tranquility,

Where service is above self,

Where the Light has overcome the Darkness, and

God’s kingdom has come.

Patience, beloved.

God’s time is God’s time, not our time.

Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples;

An act of humble service.

Our Gospel narrative from St. John is far more familiar

On Maundy Thursday of Holy Week,

Yet, we revisit it five weeks later.

Why?

The core characteristics,

That make the Gospel of John unique and distinct,

From the paralleled synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are

Abundance,

Discipleship,

Love, and

Glory.

Let’s examine each.

1. Abundance.

Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and

Whoever believes in me will never thirst.” 6:35

Eucharist symbols are related to the abundance of God’s grace:

Jesus feeding 5,000 and their families with five loaves and two fish,

Jesus turning water into an abundance of wine to save a wedding feast,

Jesus directing his disciples to fish on the other side of the boat,

Having them pull in 153 fish that nearly broke their nets.

That’s abundance.

Abundance is the fingerprint of God.

2. Discipleship.

In the final scene from the Gospel of John,

Jesus has a face-to-face with Peter.

A life of discipleship is one of service, Jesus tells him.

Tend the Lord’s flock.

Feed the Lord’s flock.

Lead the Lord’s flock.

In the physical absence of Jesus until his return.

Serve the flock just like the Good Shepherd has served you.

If you claim that you are a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ

And you’re not engaged in an intentional ministry of service

You’re doing it wrong.

James, the disciple sums it up:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” – James 2:14-17

Faith without anything to show for it is dead.

Roll up the sleeves.

Get your hands dirty.

Put to work the talents God has given you.

Get to work in God’s name for God’s benefit.

Everyone can do something.

Volunteer your time and talents.

If you can’t work, write a check. Donate from your treasure.

If you can’t work or write a check, pray.

Everyone can pray.

Excuses

Reveal the depth of faith,

Or lack, thereof.

Discipleship and service are inseparable.

3. Love.

The Gospel of John oozes love

Like blood from a wound.

God’s love for the world, and

Christ’s love for his followers.

We hear from this Upper Room narrative

Immediately after Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus teaching

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” (13:34a)

Taken in its short form, we know this isn’t true.

There is nothing new about it.

God had already put commandments in the book to love others.

Leviticus 19:18 reads

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:34 reads

“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Allow this commandment to speak for a moment,

In context of our immigration policies and the

Trench warfare of the partisan body politic.

What is new

Is the longform command of Jesus:

“Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (13:34b)

“Just as I have love you,” is what is new and set’s the love of Jesus apart

From anything the world had ever seen.

Jesus pushes the envelop of love even further.

“I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44)

Jesus’ love is new, fresh, different, … revolutionary.

Case in point:

The context of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

This narrative is bookended

By Judas’ betrayal before and Peter’s denial afterwards.

Yet, Jesus loved Judas and Peter enough to wash their feet anyways.

It’s easy to love the center,

Those who everyone loves.

It’s much harder the further you pull away from the center.

It’s hard for me to love those on the outer edge.

It takes the love of Jesus

To love the bookends.

Who are the bookend people in your life?

Those who are most difficult for you to love?

Are they people who have betrayed you, like Judas?

Ask Jesus for the strength,

And wash their feet anyways.

Are they people who have denied knowing you, like Peter?

Pray for strength, courage, and direction,

And wash their feet anyways.

Are they people with whom you have become estranged?

People who you approach as if walking on eggshells?

Those who are broken?

Those who you dread?

Just as Jesus sucked it up and loved his disciples,

Wash feet anyways.

Having Jesus by your side

It is possible to love the bookends

When it is beyond your capacity to love.

If you have Jesus in your life,

It’s possible to draw upon his love

… to tap into his divine reservoir of unlimited love …

When our love reaches it limit and runs out.

4. Glory.

When it comes to interpretation

Sometimes the Gospel gets in its own way.

I mean, what is this “glorify” thing?

What is this “glorification” thing all about?

It’s hard to read, untangle, understand;

Even for me!

Jesus teaches

“Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” (13:31b-32)

Traditional Christianity defined “glorify” as

Words and actions that direct praise, honor, and adoration

To the penultimate act of God’s salvation history:

The cross,

The empty tomb, and

The ascension.

God is glorified in the words and actions of Jesus.

The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus brings praise, honor, and adoration to God.

Likewise, Jesus is glorified in God’s initiative and actions throughout salvation history.

God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world,

Not to condemn the world,

But that the world might be saved through him.

This glorifies Christ.

This is a great definition of “glorification”

For a sterile, academic discussion,

But it falls short of the target if we are seeking application to our lives.

Are you daring?

Let’s push the thinking of traditional Christianity just a nudge:

Let us consider

“Glorify” is a recognition of the presence of God in our midst.

Imagine; had Judas and Peter

Recognized God present in Jesus.

Judas didn’t recognize the presence of God in Jesus, so he

Walked out and betrayed him.

Peter was so caught up in the murderous, frenzied crowd,

He was unable to think beyond self-preservation

And he denied Jesus three times.

Too often,

I am so focused on navigating through secular life –

Paying bills, working long hours, juggling responsibilities, being a dad, and,

Oh, what’s for dinner? –

That I, too, fail to recognize the presence of God in my presence.

I suspect I’m not alone.

I’m not suggesting the cliche

“Slow down and smell the roses.”

I am suggesting engaging in an intentional spiritual discipline

Known as mindfulness.

Mindfulness means tuning our spiritual antenna to achieve maximum efficiency and sensitivity.

Mindfulness means we

Watch.

Listen.

We stand alert;

To recognize the presence of God.

When we become conscious or aware of God’s presence, direction, power, grace, and love … Right here, right now …

We become the glorification of God

Of which the Gospel of John speaks.

Glorify God.

Recognize God’s presence.

The Gospel of John is about

The abundance of God symbolized by the acts of Jesus;

Living the life of a discipleship;

Loving one another, neighbors, enemies, and aliens,

Loving those who are easy to love and

Loving the bookends,

Just as Jesus loved his disciples, Judas, and Peter alike;

And living a life of glory,

A life lived with Jesus Christ,

A life lived in the presence of God.

Dearly beloved,

Love, just like Jesus loved;

Love with no strings attached.

When your love runs out, ask the Lord to make up for our deficits.

Live in the presence of God.

Be aware of God at work in and through you,

Your thoughts, words, and deeds.

Testify to God’s presence.

That brings glory to God. 

That’s how you truly glorify his name.

Amen.

“The Father and I are One”

John 10:22-30

May 8, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

| Centering Prayer |

It is a bit of an awkward transition

During this season of Easter,

The season of resurrection,

To move from last Sunday’s final resurrection appearance of Jesus

To this Sunday’s narrative from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John.

This narrative takes place before our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection.

It is like being whiplashed back into the pre-passion life and ministry of Jesus.

‘So what’s the connection?’ the inquisitive are certain to ask.

As I spoke about last Sunday

In Jesus’ final post resurrection appearance in the Gospel of John,

Abundance is a characteristic Jesus puts forward

For living a life as one of his disciples.

An abundant life is not one of material abundance,

But one recognizing the amazing grace of living in God’s abundant love.

It is symbolized

When 153 fish strain and nearly break the disciples’ nets,

With 6 stone jars of water being turning into wine,

When 5 loaves and 2 fish are multiplied to feed crowds of thousands.

Are you aware of God’s amazing, abundant love?

It’s been supporting you all your life

Whether you know it, or not.

In your experience

What is it like having it support you?

What is it like to drink it in?

What is it like to have the abundant love of God move in and take up residence in your life?

Let’s have a conversation about sheep.

The metaphor of sheep

Is the common ligament that connects

Jesus teaching

About what a life of discipleship is like

With those who are called to follow Jesus.

Jesus tells Simon Peter what a life of discipleship looks like:

“Feed my lambs,” Jesus says.

“Tend my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.” (21:15-17)

Feed: i.e. Nourish. Sustain. Abide with and in.

Tend: i.e. Encourage. Direct. Lead.

Look around;

These are the sheep of Jesus.

We are the stand-in shepherd,

Until the Good Shepherd returns.

Are we feeding each other?

Tending one another?

Teaching each other?

Calling each other and holding each other to accountability?

Are we abiding with each other,

Even when sometimes that means we walk with each other

Through the valley of the shadow of death?

Have no fear!

We are not alone!

Take comfort!

God abides with us,

And we are invited to lean on his rod and staff!

(Psalm 23:4)

Are we each other’s biggest cheerleaders, supporters, and fans?

Are we using the skills God has given us

To discern God’s will and ways, and

To faithfully steer ourselves and God’s flock

In the direction of God’s will?

What a glorious Church we become

When we all pull together,

When we all steer a common course,

Fixing our eyes upon Jesus!

“I have told you, and you do not believe,” Jesus told the crowd of Jews

Who asked if he was the Jewish Messiah. (10:25)

I told you.

Is there something you don’t understand?

I told you.

If you understood,

The only possibility is that you must have chosen to not believe.

You have chosen not to follow.

Belief begins with a choice:

Become familiar with the voice of Jesus? and

Choose to follow?

Or,

Choose to remain a stranger?

Keep Jesus at arm’s length.

Don’t let him into our lives, and

Don’t let Jesus guide or call us?

Free will means the final decision is up to us, to you and me.

Choose wisely.

There are consequences to choosing not to believe or follow Jesus:

1. There is not the protection of the Good Shepherd.

You will be vulnerable to

The evil of this world

That snatches and steals like a fox.

You will face evil and temptation.

The question will be if you choose to face it with Christ or without him?

2. Without a shepherd

Life occurs in isolation, away from the flock, disconnected from the body.

Abundance is replaced by dependence,

Dependence becomes desperation, and

Desperation leads to death.

Lone sheep don’t last long in the wild.

On the other hand, there are benefits to choosing to believe.

There are benefits to choosing to follow Jesus:

1. Choose Jesus and you will be protected.

The Lord’s protection is largely unnoticed for

It is largely unrecognized

The Lord’s protection often

Happens outside of our awareness, or

Happens outside or our timeline.

2. Choose to believe and follow Jesus, and

You will have eternal life and never perish. (10:28)

John’s Revelation gives us a glimpse of what this might mean:

Forgiveness, worship, and a great banquet.

No more crying or mourning.

You will be sheltered from the scorching sun by day.

You are promised to be

Refreshed and replenished by the water of life.

(Revelations 7:14-17)

When the choice is death or life,

Always choose life;

Life in his flock,

Life with Jesus Christ.

I told you before,

But I’ll tell you again:

“The Father and I are one.” (10:30)

‘The Father and Jesus are one’

Is more than a second confirmation

Of Jewish messianic expectation.

‘The Father and Jesus are one’

Is more than a theological detail

Necessary for early Church fathers

To stitch together a trinitarian doctrine. 

‘The Father and Jesus are one’

Is an invitation to unity, Christian unity.

With Christian unity comes the promise of

Christian perfection and immortality.

Christian unity is not about maintaining

the organizational integrity of the denomination.

Christian unity is only about abiding in Christ, and

Allowing Christ to abide in us.

Abide!

This is Christian unity.

We are one:

One in the Spirit,

One in the Lord;

One united with each other, and

One united with Jesus.

The Father and Jesus are one.

We are one united with the Father,

Our creator, and

The Creator.

We are one with the Creator of all things before all things.

We are united with the Creator who is transforming the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of God.

We are one with the Creator who will continue to create all things for ever more.

Eternal unity is confirmed with God’s pronouncement in Revelation,

“I Am the Alpha and the Omega,

the beginning and the end.”

(Revelation 21:6)

Dearly beloved,

Let us be united in our belief

That Jesus is Messiah;

The fulfillment of our expectation,

That he is one with our Father,

The Creator of the heavens and the earth.

Let us be united in our choice

To follow Jesus and become the benefactors of God’s amazing grace and love.

Let us be united in our discipleship

Feeding others,

Tending others,

Good stewards of Christ’s flock

Drawing others towards the same Good Shepherd.

May his flock grow!

Let us be united in our forgiveness and our salvation.

Let us be one.

To God be the glory!

Amen.